HANGZHOU: Tailwind, headwind, stroke rate, oar angles, arc angles, force application. The depth of technicalities in rowing has the potential to tie one in knots. It makes two things critical to success — fitness beyond comparison and a deep dive into understanding of the technical requirement to succeed at the top level.
It, therefore, takes the experience of a coach as drilled as Ismail Baig to keep his ‘battalion’ of rowers on course — physically, mentally and technically.

It would otherwise not be possible to pull off triumphs like the two Naib Subedars from the Indian Army,Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh, managed at the Fuyang Sports Centre in Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls.The 11th-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics gave Arjun and Arvind, who began to row after getting recruited in the army in 2015 and 2016 respectively, a feel of what it would take to win a medal in top-level competitions, like their debut in the Asian Games on Sunday.
The Indians clocked 6:28.18 to finish second, well behind gold medal-winner China’s timing of 6:23.16 but comfortably ahead of bronze medallist Uzbekistan who clocked 6:33.42.
India’s opening medal in rowing was soon followed by bronze and silver medal triumphs respectively in Men’s Pair by Babu Lal & Lekh Ram and in Men’s Eight by the team of Neeraj, Naresh Kalwaniya, Neetish Kumar, Charanjeet Singh, Jaswinder Singh, Bheem Singh, Punit Kumar, Ashish and Dhananjay Uttam Pande.
A month or so from their race on Sunday, Arvind and Arjun were staring at the possibility of likely withdrawal from the Games, or Arjun going in with a different partner.

(AFP Photo)
Arvind’s lower back injury had made prospects gloomy for India.
“It is an issue for lightweight (sculls) rowers,” said Arvind, who is from the regiment of Bengal Engineer Group, after the medal ceremony here.
Technical aspects like the arc angle created while rowing the oar at a particular angle, the force applied on the oar and the propulsion effort is perhaps what Arvind was pointing at as the reasons behind back issues with lightweight rowers.
“Because of my injuries, we couldn’t practice for 20-25 days,” said Arvind. “Aim was to win a gold medal, but we had lack of practice, otherwise it could have been a gold medal around our neck.”


(AFP Photo)
Before this, the Arjun-Arvind pair had won two gold medals and one silver in the Asian Championships.
They were definitely wary of the Uzebks while knowing the Chinese pair of Fan Junjie and Sun Man would be the team to beat.
“Uzbekistan and Japan had both beaten us at the World Cup as I was not in practice because of my back issue. We participated there just to have a measure of ourselves,” said Arvind, before Arjun added: “Our coach had said that the Uzbeks will attack in the first 500 metres.”
India, in fact, were in the first position after 500m into the 2000m race, before the Chinese boat went past them and then stayed in lead through to the finish line.
The Indian rowing squad had reached China well in advance, on October 8, which is critical not just to acclimatize but to assemble and configure the boats to match the settings they had while training back home. That process can take close to a week.
“In our sport, boat setting is the most crucial. If our boat can’t be transported from back home, then we have to hire from here and do the same settings. It takes 4-5 days. So we could settle in, and that way the mind is satisfied,” said Sukhmeet Singh, who is part of the rowing contingent and will be seen in the Men’s Quadruple Sculls Final A on Monday.
14 Rajputana Rifles jawan Arjun, who ironically comes from India’s desert-land Rajasthan, was scouted by Bajrang Lal Takhar — India’s first individual rowing gold medallist from the 2010 Asian Games.
Incidentally both Arjun and Takhar hail from Rajasthan and many ‘accidental’ rowers from the state, who took up the sport like fish to water after joining the Indian Army, are part of the current squad.
Besides Takhar in the past and Arjun now, the list of Rajasthan’s representatives in the India squad in Hangzhou also has the names of Jakar Khan, Naresh Kalwaniya, Bheem Singh, Ashish, Lekh Ram and Babu Lal.
Arjun and Arvind’s silver medal also rewrote history as India’s only second-place finish in Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls at the Asian Games.
“We didn’t know about it,” said Arjun. “Our coach (Ismail Baig) has 30-year experience, many Asian Games and many Olympics. He asked us to do our best without looking over the shoulder.”
India certainly rowed like that, and will look to continue to do the same in search of that elusive gold in their remaining finals on Monday.

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